POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — The solemn memorial observance to remember the 46 victims of the Silver Bridge Disaster returns to downtown Point Pleasant on Wednesday, Dec. 15 —the 54th anniversary of the tragedy.
This year’s ceremony begins at 5 p.m. at the bridge memorial at Sixth and Main streets. It will include a welcome by Mayor Brian Billings, as well as a musical performance by members of the Point Pleasant High School Choir under the direction of Ethan Bartlett. The names of the victims will be read aloud and the memorial tree will be lit in their memory. A prayer will also be delivered.
The inaugural observance was held on Dec. 15, 2015 with the tradition continuing over the years. Started by Mason County native Kenny Grady, the ceremony includes a partnership with officials with the City of Point Pleasant, and participation from the Mason County Commission and other volunteers.
Along with Billings, speaking at that first observance was the late Jack Fowler, the former director of the Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center.
At that observance in 2015, Fowler talked to the crowd about the history of the Silver Bridge in the spot where it used to stand; where U.S. 35 once landed in the middle of Point Pleasant. He spoke about Dr. Charles Holzer as being one of the people who helped pushed the project that was completed in one year and opened to traffic in 1928. How, at the grand opening of the bridge, there were an estimated 10,000 people at the event that was talked about not only in the immediate area, but across the Midwest. The bridge was a two-lane, 1760-foot-long eyebar suspension bridge with a 700-foot main span 102 feet above the bottom of the Ohio River channel and two 380-foot anchor spans. It was the first bridge in the world to be coated with aluminum.
Fowler then talked about the bridge not being designed to hold the weight of increasing traffic and heavier vehicles over the years and the “one-eighth of an inch crack” in one of the structure’s eyebars that caused the disaster.
“In less than one minute, we lost 46 people,” Fowler said.
Following Fowler that day in 2015 were the names of all 46 victims read aloud by three people, including the late Carolin Harris, then owner of Harris’ Steakhouse. Harris paused when reading the name of her own son, James Timothy Meadows, who was three years old at the time of the collapse and was on the bridge with his father, James F. Meadows, who also perished.
The observance is always held on the anniversary of the tragedy which occurred Dec. 15, 1967.
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.